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Saturday, March 14, 2009

ThinkPad X41 with Ubuntu 8.10

I been having this X41 tablet for some years now, although mine is beefed up with RAM and big disk, etc.

At the day one I had scratched it off Windows crap and put SuSe 9.3 on it. Later on it has been updated to SuSe 10.1. And I loved it that way: everything was working like a chime: WiFi; touch screen capabilities (coming very handy for Gimp jobs); screen rotation to read books or something, on-disk hibernation, and all other stuff. It didn't all worked out of the box and I had to tune it here and there a little bit, but it was a way better than anything coming from Redmond, WA.

What had annoyed me for a long time is the absence of in-memory suspend. It's not like it wasn't available at all, but wasn't very useful for the laptop had to be rebooted every time it was awaken :-( Alas, it wasn't SuSe problem but rather an effect of fairly old Linux kernel (version 2.6.15 or something). SuSe 10.1 quickly became unsupported and an upgrade looked like pain to me. Once I was laid-off from Sun Microsystems and got some quiality time to do whatever I'm pleased to. Despite other things I've decided to reinstall my laptop.

This time I decided to give Ubuntu a spin. I do like Debian and I really think this is the best distro on the market today. But I never was fond of Ubuntu, though. I was arguing with Mark Shuttleworth on a couple of occations about the merit of having and pushing it. Nonetheless, considering from a number of reviews and posts it seemed like worth a try.

The process is rather simple:

  • download and burn LiveCD from their website
  • boot from it and make sure your hardware works (most of it worked in my case, although no touch-screen stuff is in place, so I'll need to tune it up myself later)
  • install new OS right from the Live session (make sure you have your data backed up properly or even better keep /home on a separate partition)
  • reboot and have fun
Well, not so fast. First of all, during the installation I've been warned that the installation of GRUB to to my XFS / partition might not work properly. Two choices were offered then: "Ok" and "Cancel". Hmm... I chose "Cancel" then. The installation went on for a little longer and then has finished without any other messages nor warnings. "Sounds like the end of it" I thought and rebooted my laptop. And it failed to boot :-(

Then all the usual drill has been executed: boot from a CD, an attempts to reanimate GRUB installation, etc. None of those worked for a now clear reason: GRUB package installation has never happened or was badly broken so all stage files were incorrect.

I had to reinstall the system from scratch and this time it was Ok. A day later I've realized that I could simply boot from a LiveCD, switch to the chroot environment and reinstall grub/kernel packages to straight everything out. Well, hind-sight is a very powerful mind technique indeed...

Then I've played with Gnome and in fact I think I like it: it's relatively light weight (alas it looks like a monster compare to my all time favorite WindowMaker, but still it is lighter than KDE). It has nice and easy configuration interface for one's desktop. And it supports fonts anti-aliasing which make HUGE difference when it comes to the desktop experience. Liked it a lot!

And then it was the time to go back to my good friend WindowMaker. And there were a coupla surprises I didn't expect:
  • Perhaps for the sake of n00bs all networking is managed by NetworkManager. And NetworkManager is suppose to be represented by an applet of some kind. Otherwise you have to know how to run it manually at the startup. E.g. for WindowMaker you need to put something like this
    service NetworkManager start
    to ~/GNUstep/Library/WindowMaker/autostart
    or you'd have to go through some cumbersome procedure of disabling NetworkManager and configuring your WiFi/Ethernet interface in the old fashioned way with /etc scripts and vim, which I actually prefer.
    It isn't Ubuntu's fault per se. Many other distros do quite similar thing. Suse 10.3 under KDE utilizes the same tactic from scratch. However, SuSe has a simple way of turning NetworkManager completely off and manage your network traditionally. Ubuntu is much trickier in this case.
  • Ubuntu has very interesting ideas about how your computer's hardware suppose to work. For example, if you don't want to use GDM - kinda useless and resourse hungry crap for a single user laptop - then you will have to configure many things manually. E.g. laptop hot buttons events are - surprise - handled by a GDM's subsystem rather than being passed to HAL and processed there accordinly. And so on...
Besides of these kinda minor inconveniences I really like what I see: even generic build of new 2.6.27 kernel is very fast; pretty much everything works out of the box (I can simply close my laptop's lid and not to worry about its getting into sleep, etc.); multimedia experience is pretty slick except that some of the codecs could be found only under *-ugly set it causes troubles once in a while.

Conclusion: if you are noob and need to have a stable and convenient alternative to crappy Windows stuff Ubuntu is the way to go. And you know that Linux is green too, right? It can run on pretty old hardware where contemporary Windows unlikely even to start.

Будда-украинец: круче не бывает

Мне сегодня кинули ссылку на аннотацию статьи из газеты "Голос Украины" (официальная газета украинской Верховной Рады). Статья утверждает - совершенно серьезно, до 1-го апреля еще две недели, - что небезызвестный Будда был украинцем (видимо, древним Укром!)

Вот ссылка на аннотацию, а вот и оригинал (для читающих по-украински).

Судя по количеству и качеству регалий автора статьи (доктор політичних наук, професор, проректор Університету «Україна», голова правління Всеукраїнської асоціації політичних наук), у украинских политиков происходит очередное сезонное обострение национального самосознания (весна, полнолуние недавно прошло).

Если не полениться и поискать упомянутые в статье "работы" гн-а Бебика, то можно воссоздать полную картину вклада украинцев в мировую философию. Вот только не очень понятно как быть с Христом еврейского происхождения? Видимо, в самом ближайшем будущем этот вопрос придется урегулировать министерствам иностранных дел Украины и Израиля :-)

В общем, оттягивайтесь!

Friday, March 13, 2009

How to connect Shure I2C-M to a computer

A few days ago I got myself a total bargain in the form of Shure I2C-M headset (as in mobile phone headset with microphone) which I bought at Amazon for mere $19.99 (!)

I was impatiently waiting to get a hold of my new toy. I'm not going to review it here - one can find a plenty of information in the Inet. I just say that the headphones are good enough and are simply great for 20 bucks :-)

The only ripple I've discovered so far is the fact that I can not use all the features of the headset with my laptop. The reason is that most of the moder computers are equipped with two separate jacks for headphones (out) and microphone (in). The jacks are 3.5mm 2-rings ones, like that below:

However, mobile phone headset jack is different and I'm not talking about the facts that they differ in size, shape, wiring schematics, etc. I'm talkig about particular 3.5mm headset jack which has 3 rings thus provides 4 contacts for headset, mic and ground. Something like this one:

Now, the question is to how to convert one to another? Well, if you good with soldering and have enough time to spare - you can sure and with ease produce an adapter to do the job.

I wanted quick and cheap solution, so I decided to search and find something standard and ready to go. After quite some some time spent on searches I found out two things:
  • it was faster to solder one
  • people are unaware about the fact that 3.5mm mobile headsets aren't exclusive to iPhone. In fact there is vast number of better phones, using this type of connector.
Long story short, after some elaborated googling I've found this adapter or headphone/mic splitter cable, mistakenly called 'iPhone headset adapter'.

Hopefully this little article will help someone to safe a bit of time, when in need to find such an adapter.

Fast forward two weeks

I have received the adapter in the mail. Here how it looks like:

OverviewTail connectors for mic. and stereo out (marked)
3.5mm jack

The cable is clearly handmade, although very professionally and nicely. And the best part of the story that it DOES the job: I can use my new Shure I2C-M with my laptop to listen a music or to make VOIP calls! The quality is good and I can't hear any artifacts neither in the audio nor in my recorder voice.

Conclusion: ordering the cable like this worth the time and money if you aren't capable of soldering a couple of wires and some connectors. Otherwise, you might be much better off going to the local electronic store for some low cost components and making your own one!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Watching the National Debt grow... in your terminal

I was watching this little video and came across the idea that it'd be much cooler to see how fast the debt is actually growing at each iteration (I can't subtract numbers in the proximity of 1014 every second or so just in my head).

The crazy thing is that US government is piling up about $42,000 of fresh debt every second. It's like a size of annual gross income for many americans :-(

Here I came with the little script below :-)

while true; do
curr=`wget --quiet -O - | \
grep debtiv.gif | \
sed -e 's/.*ALT="//' -e 's/".*//' -e 's/\ //g' -e 's/^\\$//'`;
echo -n `date +%d/%m/%Y-%H:%M:%S`" "
echo -n "$"$curr " "
curr=`echo "$curr" | sed -e 's/,//g' -e 's/\..*$//g'`
if [ $prev != 0 -a $curr != 0 ]; then
echo -n "Grown by: $";
expr $curr - $prev;
sleep 1;

All formating for has been prepared by this handy tool

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

AT&T is not environmental friendy :-(

Despite all well financed media and political hysteria about climate change - which is always a good sign that something is very fishy - I am nonetheless positive that idling aren't good for anyone's health. The reasons are plenty:
  • CO/CO2 pollution
  • nitrogen oxides sulfur pollution
  • noise
  • what have you
I should, perhaps, point out that I live in a very quite and green suburban community, separated even from out little town: very few cars, pretty much no traffic and all that.

Today I was parking at my house and noticed AT&T truck - one of those gas guzzlers F150 - parked at neighbor place. The engine was idling. About two hours later, I took my dog for a walk. Surprise-surprise: the dude's in the same spot, same crap coming out of his exhaust pipe, poisoning everyone around for no good reason. I went down to ask the chump to turn it off and no one was inside :-( Truck running, headlights are on, a laptop with non-green Windows OS running and all this for no one.

I would love to publish their license plate, but no luck - 10 minutes later when I was back and ready to get my camera to make the picture - the truck was gone.

Looks like AT&T is the evil company. First that now this.

P.S. And about 24 hours later I've read the article about their plans for switching over to alternative fuel vehicles in the next decade. Should I apologize? I don't think so